Symptoms of Hepatitis B

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is an inflammation of the liver caused by the Hepatitis B virus or HBV. Originally known as serum hepatitis, it is considered as a fairly common disease although only about three to six percent of the world population is currently infected.

The infection of the virus may either be acute or self-limited or chronic. People infected with acute Hepatitis B usually can be cleared of the infection within weeks or months.

An acute infection of Hepatitis B is connected with acute viral hepatitis. It usually begins with general ill health, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting and body aches. Mild fever will usually follow and bouts of having dark urine.

The infection will then gradually progress into the development of jaundice. With acute hepatitis, the illness would usually last for a few weeks and will gradually improve. But there are certain cases where some of those infected would develop severe liver disease and may die as a result.

Chronic infection of Hepatitis B can sometimes go unrecognized or it may be associated with chronic inflammation of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis after several years. Having this type of infection may also increase the possibility of the patient developing liver cancer.

Causes of hepatitis B

The Hepatitis B virus can be spread by direct contact with blood, semen, vaginal fluids and serum of an infected person. Saliva may also spread the virus but this happens rarely.

Sharing needles and sexual contact with an infected individual is known to be the usual means that the virus has spread among the population.

There are certain sectors of the population who might find themselves at an increased risk of getting the disease. Health care workers usually find themselves at an increased risk of getting the disease due to the nature of their work.

Homosexual men are also at an increased risk of getting the disease, especially those who practice unprotected sex. Heterosexuals with multiple partners are also at high risk of getting Hepatitis B.

Patients undergoing hemodialysis may also be at risk of getting the disease. Members of a certain household with contact to an infected individual may also have a higher risk of getting Hepatitis B. Immigrants or travelers returning back from HBV-endemic countries may also be possible carriers of the disease.

Symptoms of hepatitis B

After one has contracted the disease, it would usually take about two to three months before the symptoms will appear. Signs and symptoms usually appear 12 weeks after you’re infected and can range from mild to severe. They may include some or all of the following:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Abdominal pain, especially around your liver
  • Dark urine
  • Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
  • Joint pain

Complete recovery from the disease will usually depend on the age when the infection occurs. The younger the patient, the higher the risk that chronic hepatitis B infection may result. There is currently no special medication or antibiotics that are used to treat Hepatitis B.